What Is Ambient Light In Photography

Last Updated on May 7, 2021

What is ambient light in photography?

living room scene in evening

Ambient light is a type of light that exists in the environment. This would include natural sunlight, outdoor lights on buildings, and indoor lights from lamps or windows.

The use of ambient light as a photographic element for example, can be used to add depth and texture to portraits or other photos, which would otherwise appear flat without it.

Types Of Ambient Light

Outdoor Ambient Light

The amount and quality of ambient light in an outdoor scene will depend on the weather conditions of that day. Sunny, overcast, or rainy weather will all play a role in how much light is available to use. Using natural daylight outdoors directly can be very problematic if you intend on using flash too, because the contrast between the two can cause serious issues with your subjects and their surroundings.

Indoor Ambient Light

Indoor ambient light is most likely the light that you are used to seeing in your home, or anywhere else indoors. This can range from the light that comes from small lamps to windows and even sunlight shining through curtains.

These lights also have different color temperatures depending on their brightness and position around the room. Also there are different types of indoor lights like incandescent light bulbs, LED bulbs, halogen lights and fluorescent tubes that each give off a different amount of light at different hues.

Using Ambient Light For Portraits

Ambient light is a great way to add depth to portraits, particularly against black backgrounds. It also works well with indoor or high-key outdoor shots too.

To use ambient light for portrait photography, think about the shape and contrast of your subject, and how you can use the background to frame it.

Place your subject near a window for best use of light. Not only will sunlight entering through windows create flattering images, but it also illuminates dark corners. If there is a large difference between your subjects’ skin tone and that of their surroundings, consider adding a fill light as well.

Using Ambient Light For Event Photography

Using ambient light for event photography can also be done effectively. For example, if you are taking a photo of a bride and groom during their wedding ceremony at an outdoor garden or patio, all of the guests might have to stand in the shade. You can achieve this effect by using a large softbox with your camera. This way, the sun will not create shadows in the background that may make some of your images look like they were taken on an afternoon day.

Photographing Indoor With Natural Light

Some people find it difficult to take excellent photographs in an environment that has poor lighting (especially indoor environments). When you are inside and need to take a photograph, but you don’t want to use a flash because it will look unnatural, how do you get the best picture possible?

The best plan of action is to work around the natural lighting conditions. It is easy to take a traditional photograph using natural light, but there are other ways you can improve your pictures too. Utilize light coming through windows, from lamps, and any other interior light source you have at your location.

Color Temperature With Natural And Artificial Lighting

Many people still use the outdated Kelvin temperature scale to describe the color of various types of lighting. The Kelvin scale was designed to describe the color and brightness of a single light source, so while it is fine to use for artificial lighting, it does not work very well for natural lighting.

Using natural and artificial lighting together can be done with the correct amount of white balance or brightness adjustments to both. For example, natural light is usually colder while artificial lights are warmer.

When you are taking landscape photographs at sunrise or sunset, you may want to adjust the color temperature of your camera’s white balance. You can still take excellent shots if you do this!

Take note that shining a flash on a wall will create the same effect as using fill flash except it is much more intense.

Bottom Line

Have you ever used ambient light in photography? What did you like about it? Let us know in the comments any challenges you are facing and we will help you out.